Thursday, May 12, 2016

Review: The Invisible Ring and Tangled Webs

I've read quite a few books by Anne Bishop, especially her "Black Jewels" series, so when I found 
The Invisible Ring (Black Jewels, Book 4), I decided to pick it up, along with Tangled Webs: A Black Jewels Novel. The Invisible Ring is less of a follow up to the Black Jewels series than a prequel, with Daemon Sadi as the only overlapping character. I enjoyed The Invisible Ring, which shows some of the resistance to Dorothea Sadi's reign of terror, long before Jaenelle is even born.

The book follows a new character, Jared, a Red-Jeweled warlord who's been enslaved to a series of terrible queens. He murdered the last one, so he's auctioned off to a mysterious "Grey Lady," who's known for buying slaves who are never seen again. Yet Jared finds himself admiring the Lady, even falling in love with her, despite his hatred and fear of the evil abusive queens from his past. Of course, the Lady is nothing like she first appears, and as her and Jared undertake a perilous journey to the one province safe from Dorothea, they grow closer to one another. I won't reveal her secrets here, but I will say that Bishop caught me off guard a couple of times, and I'm notorious at guessing surprise endings and reveals in books of all kinds.

Overall, I thought The Invisible Ring was a good prequel to the "Black Jewels" series, with interesting new characters, and just enough of Daemon Sadi to keep me wanting more.

Unfortunately, I did not care for Tangled Webs: A Black Jewels Novel as much as The Invisible Ring. I enjoyed the depictions of the characters I've come to know and love over the course of the series, and Bishop had plenty of funny, joyful moments in the book to keep it interesting. But the overall plot felt a bit weak. There was never any question of the characters being in serious danger--their opponent was too weak, and Bishop's characters are too powerful. I find this is a problem I sometimes run into in video games or D&D--once player characters are high-powered, the villains/opponents must be equally powerful. If they're not, the game loses its thrill. Thrills, after all, require risk, and if your opponent is too weak, then there's never any risk.

Still, for fans of the series, Tangled Webs is a good depiction of ordinary life after the momentous events of Queen of the Darkness: The Black Jewels Trilogy 3. Of course, if you haven't read the series, I'd recommend it before you read any of the other books. It's excellent dark fantasy, although it has a significant amount of violence.

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